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Understanding Eating Disorders in Children

  By posted Jun 9th 2011
Healthy Living
Understanding Eating Disorders in Children

Eating disorders are becoming increasingly common with young children these days. These are: Anorexia, Bulimia, and Binge eating. Anorexia is when a child refuses to eat and his/her nutrition and growth suffers greatly. Bulimia occurs when a child overeats and then flushes out the food by either vomiting or by using laxatives to avert weight gain. Binge eating, we're all familiar with, is an eating disorder in which a child might overeat hastily, but without purging.

It is usually observed, that in children and teens eating disorders might overlap. For instance, children may interchange between anorexia and bulimia.

Causes of eating disorders:
Behavioural, psychological or social factors come together to affect a child's psyche leading to eating disorders. Young children and teens may get influenced by the latest fads or cultural images that favour 'skinny' and 'thin' body types. Other causes could be:

  • Helplessness
  • Fear of becoming overweight
  • Distress 
  • Low self-esteem


To cope with various eating concerns, young children and teens may suffer from various other psychiatric health conditions such as substance abuse, anxiety disorders and depression.

Anorexia in children and teens: 
Young teens and children who suffer from anorexia may have a distorted image of self, especially their body. They look at themselves as being extremely heavy, even when they are severely skinny. They become obsessed with the idea of being thin and don’t believe in maintaining a healthy weight.


Some of the symptoms of anorexia include:

  • Anxiety, depression, perfectionism
  • They are highly critical of themselves.
  • They have a unique interest in food such as calculating every bite they eat, eating in secret, avoiding meals.
  • They might go for compulsive or excessive exercising.
  • There menstruation cycle may become irregular or in some cases stop.
  • Obsession of becoming fat, even when they are underweight

 


Treating anorexia: 
The first goal is to get the child back to his or her healthy weight. Depending upon the intensity of anorexia, a person can suffer from extreme or life-threatening malnutrition. Support groups, behavioural therapy, antidepressant medication and psychotherapy may be needed to address long-term physiological issues related to anorexia.

Bulimia in children and teens: 
It is an eating disorder similar to anorexia, in that it stems from poor esteem and social evaluation issues. But here, a child overeats and then purges by vomiting or using laxatives in excess.

Some of the symptoms of bulimia include:

  • Bingeing on large quantity of food
  • Habitually spending time in the wash room after eating
  • Abusing drugs and alcohol
  • Unusual eating habits like eating in private
  • Abusing laxatives and other treatments in order to avoid weight gain
  • Too much of exercise
  • Anxiety
  • Mood swings

 

 

Treating bulimia: The long-term treatment of bulimia is to stop the binge-and-purge cycle. Treatments might involve nutritional counselling, antidepressants medication, behaviour modification, and group therapy.


Eating Disorder: Binge eating in children and teens

Binge eating is pretty similar to bulimia, but there is no vomiting involved, resulting in obesity or overweight. They may even find it hard to cope with emotions. Any kind of extreme emotion may trigger their eating habit – like anger, stress, depression, boredom, sadness or worry. 

Some of the health problems which they might suffer from are 
high cholesterol, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and high blood pressure.

Treating binge eating: 
Treatments may include psychotherapy, antidepressant medications or behavioural therapy. 

Image courtesy: © Thinkstock photos/ Getty Images 

 

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